Do you have an upcoming technical product manager interview coming up?
While technical interview questions are typically asked less often during product manager interviews, you still need to be prepared for them. This is especially true if you're interviewing at 'techy' companies like Google.
In general, technical product management interview questions are asked to assess your:
- Critical thinking skills
- Analytical ability
- Understanding of software
- Ability to specify features
- Comfort with technical constraint
These product management interview questions are usually open-ended and could be focused on all sorts of things or technical skills.
As such, it may feel intimidating trying to prep for them.
To help you do that, we've sourced 30 of the top technical PM interview questions from Big Tech companies like Google, Meta, Amazon, LinkedIn, and more.
The Top 30 Technical Product Manager Interview Questions
- How would you handle negative user feedback about YouTube, and how might you address it with the engineering team?
- What are the top 3 technology trends that will change the landscapes in the next decade?
- How would you explain cloud computing to your grandmother?
- How do autonomous vehicles work? Watch a sample answer to this question here.
- How does Google Maps compute ETA?
- How does Google Docs work? Watch a sample answer to this question here.
- Why is Gmail search slower than Google search?
- How would you diagnose a connection issue with Instagram? Watch our co-founders answer this question here.
- How would you improve Google Docs's real-time collaboration?
- Design a key-value store. Watch an expert answer this technical PM question here.
- How does the communication between Mars and Earth work?
- Design a billing system for a doctor's office with two locations in the Bay Area.
- How would you create a high-speed network to communicate with team members on the Moon?
- Design a risk management plan for a data center. Watch a sample answer to this interview question here.
- How would you reduce bandwidth in a video streaming app? What technical metrics would you look at?
- How would you choose a programming language to build your product at Google?
- Tell me about a technical challenge that you've overcome as a product manager.
- YouTube went down last week. What factors could have caused an extensive system like that to fail?
- Design the backend of Spotify.
- How would you design a newsfeed algorithm for Google?
- Design YouTube's video recommendation engine.
- Design a URL shortner. Watch our co-founder, Jacob, answer this question here.
- What are the significant factors in improving response time and latency for a website?
- How does an HTTP request work?
- How would you thwart fraudulent accounts taking advantage of Uber's promo code system? Watch a PM answer this question here.
- How would you explain what an API is?
- What data points would you use to define a product recommendation engine?
- Tell me how an email is sent from Outlook to Gmail.
- How would you explain Deep Learning to a non-technical audience?
- What excites you the most about technology as a product manager?
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Sample Answers to Technical Product Manager Interview Questions
What are the top 3 technology trends that will change the landscapes in the next decade?
A product management candidate could answer this product manager question something like this:
"I see three main trends in technology that have and will continue to shape the landscape in the coming years.
- Artificial Intelligence
- The Internet of Things
- Cloud Computing
First and foremost, the most important technology trend of the next decade will undoubtedly be Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Companies are increasingly using artificial intelligence in nearly every domain, and machines' ability to effectively learn will continue to transform almost everything in tech and beyond.
Secondly, the market for the Internet of Things, or "smart" devices, is exploding and will continue to do so well into the next decade. Combined with the previously mentioned advances in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things will produce substantial transformations in many domains.
Finally, cloud computing has already produced remarkable technological transformations and will continue to do so. Primarily, cloud computing has made it easier for more people and companies to access and use data in ways that used to be prohibitively expensive."
How would you explain cloud computing to your grandmother?
This sample answer is from none other than our co-founder, Jacob.
Check it out:
"Cloud computing is like going to a restaurant instead of cooking dinner at home.
When you cook at home, you have to do everything yourself. First, you must use your own plates, pots, and pans. You have to know how many people are coming over and buying the right amount of ingredients.
If more people join for dinner than you expected, you'll run out of food! But if fewer people show up, you'll have leftovers that go to waste. And on top of it all, you must do all the cooking, set up, and clean up yourself.
Before cloud computing, running an Internet business was similar: You had to buy your own computers or rent dedicated servers from someone else.
You had to predict the number of visitors coming to your website and ensure your servers could handle that traffic. And you had to do a lot of infrastructure and maintenance work yourself—the computer equivalent of washing the dishes.
On the other hand, cloud computing is more like going to a big restaurant or cafeteria. Restaurants can handle groups of all sizes because they (usually) have more than enough food and plates to go around.
If more friends want to join, the restaurant can move some tables around and give you more room. Of course, you'll pay more on average than cooking yourself, but you only pay for what you eat.
Cloud computing providers like AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure are similar.
They have nearly unlimited computing power, which allows you to worry about your business instead of buying and maintaining computers.
As your business grows, you simply pay for what you need. But, like fancy restaurants offering exotic menu items, cloud platforms also provide new technologies you can't find at home, like machine learning. And best of all—no washing dishes!"
How does Google Docs work?
Watch a mock product management interview that answers this question that our CEO Stephen conducted below:
How to Answer Every Product Manager Interview Question Perfectly
You will undoubtedly need to answer other technical product manager questions outside the 30 we previously listed.
Don't worry, though!
No matter what questions come your way during your next product manager interview, you can follow this structure to ace the answer:
- Listen & Take Notes
- Ask Clarifying Questions
- Pause & Think
- Structure your answer
- Pivot & Check-in
Let's take a closer look.
Listen & Take Notes
First and foremost, you won't be able to get very far in your product management if you don't listen closely to your interviewer.
Be sure to actively listen when being asked your interview questions.
Take notes as your interviewer is explaining the problem, but make sure to make frequent eye contact while you do so.
Ask Clarifying Questions
Once you've heard the interview question, resist the urge to jump straight into an answer.
It's always best to ask clarifying questions before going any further.
You never know; you may have missed a crucial detail required for a great answer.
Not only that, a product manager is always expected to ask clarifying questions on the job, so you should during the interview process too.
Your interviewer will always be happy to provide additional clarification on their expectations, so take advantage of that.
For example, you could ask:
- Is the product being designed for a specific set of users?
- How many users are expected to use this product?
- Will the product be released to an international or domestic audience?
However, if the question is straightforward or you don't have any other questions, you should always clarify.
Just say something like:
"So, you're asking me to _____. Is that correct?"
Pause & Think
Now, it's not quite time to jump into your answer yet.
Believe it or not, just taking an extra 10-15 seconds to collect your thoughts and think through your answer can dramatically increase its quality.
Although you will probably feel social pressure to answer the question immediately, do yourself a favor and pause and think before doing so.
Structure Your Answer
After briefly thinking through your answer, you'll be ready to start structuring it.
An unwieldy or disorganized answer won't impress your interviewer, so this is an important step.
And don't just keep this structure to yourself. Talk it out before diving in. Doing so will allow your interviewer the opportunity to redirect you if necessary.
There will often be a whiteboard available, especially for technical product manager interview questions. We recommend that you use it.
Now, we've gotten to the meat and potatoes.
You're finally ready to dive into and explain your solution. Be sure to talk out and explain your thought process along the way.
It's also a good idea to continue using the whiteboard extensively as you go along.
Pivot and Check-in
While explaining your answer, you need to periodically stop and check-in with the interviewer.
Sometimes, candidates will miss an essential expectation or need to be redirected, especially with technical product manager questions.
Don't sweat it if this ends up happening. Just remain calm and confident and pivot as needed.
Summarize Your Answer
Last but not least, you'll need to summarize your answer.
No need to go on and on in this step. Just take 30 seconds to reiterate the main points of your solution.
The Rubric For Technical Product Manager Interview Questions
It's also helpful to know how your interviewer will evaluate your answers during the interview process.
In general, your hiring manager will be evaluating your technical knowledge, how you'd work alongside the engineering team, how you can explain product management to technical teams, and, above all, the technical solution you provide.
Here's how technical questions are typically graded:
Core Skills to Show in Technical Product Manager Interviews
Generally, technical product manager interview questions are designed to evaluate three primary things.
These are a candidate's analytical skills, critical thinking, and domain knowledge.
Many tech companies today use grading rubrics with five different options. These scores range from "missing" or "very weak" to "very strong."
Regarding technical product manager interview questions, six technical skills are usually the focus of these rubrics.
These skills are:
- Data Literacy
- Comfortability with Metrics
- Asking Clarifying Questions
- Ability to Evaluate Tradeoffs and Potential Errors
- Basic knowledge of software implementation
- Technical Communication
Let's take a closer look at each:
While some product managers' jobs can be very technical, especially at companies like Google, you must remember that product managers aren't engineers.
This means that the most important technical details they will likely be concerned are with data.
As a result, many technical product manager interview questions will evaluate your data literacy skills.
Always keep your answers data-driven to ensure you put your best foot forward in your technical PM interviews.
- Very Weak or Missing: The candidate did not use data to answer the question.
- Weak: The candidate did not specify any relevant patterns in the data.
- Neutral: The candidate displayed an adequate ability to reason with data but missed vital details.
- Strong: The candidate used data effectively when answering, asked valuable questions, made dependable assumptions, and formed logical, reasonable conclusions.
- Very Strong: The candidate derived worthwhile insights from data, successfully recognized critical patterns, and made logical arguments.
Comfortability With Metrics
Along with data literacy, technical product managers also need to be comfortable using metrics. Most importantly, they need to understand which metrics are appropriate and which aren't.
Here's how this section of the rubric could look:
- Very Weak or Missing: The candidate did not demonstrate a basic knowledge of applicable metrics.
- Weak: The candidate struggled to specify metrics for the problem or struggled with comparing other suitable metrics.
- Neutral: The candidate demonstrated a reasonable understanding of applicable metrics but did not specify the best one for the problem.
- Strong: The candidate clearly discussed the pros and cons of several metrics and made a solid argument for their choice(s).
- Very Strong: The candidate was thorough and accurate with their description of metrics and skillfully recommended ways to streamline the analytical process.
Asking Clarifying Questions
Part of the previously mentioned product manager interview question structure was a step that called for clarifying questions.
Not only is this important for your overall answers, but this is another evaluating factor in the grading rubric.
The reason being isn't trivial either. When working as a technical product manager, you'll be expected to ask clarifying questions and contextualize your technical challenges before attempting to solve them.
- Very Weak or Missing: The candidate did not ask questions and/or interact with the interviewer.
- Weak: The candidate showed difficulty in asking the right questions and/or made assumptions without first clarifying.
- Neutral: The candidate asked good clarifying questions, but these questions missed vital points.
- Strong: The candidate asked insightful questions and adapted the interviewer's answers to their solution.
- Very Strong: The candidate asked unexpected yet insightful clarifying questions. The candidate provided a transparent, accurate summary of the problem.
Ability to Evaluate Tradeoffs and Potential Errors
Technical product management interview questions, like many interview questions, are designed to gauge how you'd perform on the job.
Because technical product managers need to consistently evaluate tradeoffs in their day-to-day responsibilities, this will be part of how a candidate is assessed during the interview.
When it comes to technical interview questions, there are typically many possible approaches to solve the problem. As such, you'll need to be able to deduce the most appropriate one during your interview.
- Very Weak or Missing: The candidate did not mention tradeoffs and possible errors.
- Weak: The candidate mentioned some tradeoffs but did not explain or justify their decisions.
- Neutral: The candidate covered some possible errors and tradeoffs, but their chosen approach could have been better or more appropriate to the problem.
- Strong: The candidate logically discussed the tradeoffs and correctly identified possible errors.
- Very Strong: The candidate displayed deep knowledge and intuition surrounding the tradeoffs of their possible approaches; the candidate offered some alternatives and judged the pros and cons of each.
Suppose technical product management is a part of your responsibilities as a product manager. In that case, that means you'll likely be working closely with engineers at the company.
Product management candidates need to have the technical communication skills necessary for these partnerships.
This, too, is evaluated in many technical product manager interview question rubrics.
- Very Weak or Missing: The candidate could not communicate with technical team members.
- Weak: The candidate had difficulty translating PM-related terms into technical terms; the interviewer needed significant clarification from the candidate.
- Neutral: The candidate was effective at communicating requirements in technical terms.
- Strong: The candidate accurately communicated the requirements/requests in technical terms and showed an ability to actively participate in technical discussions.
- Very Strong: Matches technical team's ability to communicate technically.
Ace the Technical Product Manager Interview with Exponent
Hopefully, our list of the top technical product manager interview questions helped give you a better idea of what to expect.
But why stop there?
At Exponent, we have dozens of interview prep resources to help you ace your technical product management interviews.
Join thousands of other product managers, software engineers, program managers, and more that have used Exponent to land their dream jobs in tech.
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📚 Brush up on your strategy with a list of the best PM books
📖 Read through our company-specific Product Management interview guides
👯♂️ Practice your behavioral and product sense skills with our interview practice tool.
👨🎓 Take our complete Product Management interview course.